In Letters To Stockman, Bell Protests Education Cuts

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Washington--The "12-percent cuts" in 1982 education funding proposed by President Reagan in September "are actually 27-percent" cuts, according to a letter written last month by Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell to Office of Management and Budget Director David A. Stockman.

"It will be a shock to cut our FY 1982 appropriations request ...when we are now struggling with cries of outrage from the education community over the 12 percent cuts. ...It now places me in a position of considerable embarrassment," the Secretary wrote in the Oct. 2 letter.

In a second letter to Mr. Stockman, dated Oct. 5, Mr. Bell complained that a budget official told the Education Department (ed) that $900 million for the rehabilitation services program--which had been inadvertently left out of the ed budget--would not be returned. "Don[ald W.] Moran responded to us that we 'would have to eat' the difference....This seems to fly in the face of both fair play and good budget building logic," the letter said.

Mr. Moran is the associate budget director for human resources, veterans, and labor. He was said by the budget-office spokesman, Edwin L. Dale Jr., to be unavailable for comment.

Both letters were made available to a wide range of lobbyists, Congressmen, and journalists.

(The texts of the letters appear on this page.)

Department officials said the letters were written in response to proposals for budget "targets" for the next two fiscal years sent to the department recently by the budget office .

Those proposals, which the Secretary outlined in his first letter, would slash federal education spending to $8.3 billion in 1983 and $8.1 billion in 1984. In order to meet these targets, the department's 1982 budget would have to be reduced from the $13.9-billion level passed by the House to $10.6 billion, according to the letter.

Compared with the $14.9-billion 1981 education budget, this proposld represent a 45-percent reduction in three years.

"I am convinced that you are not aware of the magnitude of the ...cuts," the letter said. "You are not aware of how forward-funding requires such deep reductions in 1982 to meet 1983 outlay targets."

The "forward-funding" nature of most federal education programs means that money appropriated by Congress in one fiscal year is spent by the department the next year. This provision means that to reduce the amount spent (known as budget outlay) in 1983, the budget set by6Congress (known as the budget authority) for 1982 must be reduced.

Officials said the omission of funds for the rehabilitation-services program resulted from an Administration proposal to move the program to the Department of Health and Human Services, to be included in a social-services block grant. Although the Congress rejected that proposal, the budget office failed to re-insert rehabilitation services in the ed budget.

Mr. Bell was questioned about the content of the letters in an Oct. 22 hearing on the education budget

held by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Resources, and Education.

Although the House had already passed its 1982 education bill on Oct. 6, a committee spokesman said the hearing was called in response to Administration suggestion that the $13.9-billion budget would add to a growing federal deficit.

After Representative Louis Stokes, Democrat of Ohio, read excerpts from the letters, Mr. Bell admitted that he did not think the cuts suggested by Mr. Stockman were "wise."

I concede that it will have an adverse impact on education," he said, in response to questions from other committee members about the effects of the cuts. Mr. Bell said he was especially concerned about the impact of cuts on Title I students, because "American education has learned how to educate disadvantaged children, and these cuts could affect those gains."

He insisted, however, that the reductions were "prudent," because ''in the long run, it will be a benefit to education....Most of the money to finance schools comes from taxes--sales, property, and income." He contended that the current financial problems the schools face will ease once the Administration's economic recovery program takes effect.

Vol. 01, Issue 09

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